Nik Vasilyev: Aerobic Exercise, Allergies and Staying Focused

Nik Vasilyev knows fitness.  Emigrating to Canada from Russia when he was 12, he spent his childhood honing his skills in martial arts.  The fitness expert, a regular on the morning show circuit for his knowledge about health and exercise, recently moving to Vancouver to pursue acting.  Fitness is still a big part of who he is and what he does working out of Rumble Boxing Studio.  According to his bio:

“He believes in moving with purpose, both in the studio and in life… choose the path less travelled and be ready to do the work to reap the rewards!”

We recently caught up with the fitness expert to learn more about getting your fitness goals back on track and how aerobic workouts can provide relief for those pesky seasonal allergies.

Summer time is prime time for allergy sufferers.  You recommend aerobic work outs to alleviate allergy symptoms.  How can working out help?

When we talk about allergic reactions, specifically about congestion, we are talking about mucus build up happening in the throat and lungs.  It creates a blockage and stops your body from the ability to breathe easily.  What aerobic exercise does is it counters that blockage because aerobics training forces your lungs and heart to work faster.  It creates the demand for more oxygen.  Your body responds by breaking down the mucus naturally acting as a natural decongestant.

If you are an allergy sufferer, depending on the type of allergies that you have, working out indoors and outdoors can create the same issues.  What other ways can people find relief so that they can still enjoy the benefits of exercise?

We often forget that indoor environments can create allergic reactions too, whether it’s from pets or dust.  One of the easiest ways that we can get relief is by taking a Reactine Rapid Dissolve.  It helps your body reduce some of the mucus buildup and opens up the airways a little bit more.  You can also take a warm shower to help open up the chest and throat and breakdown the mucus.  That creates a wonderful feeling of decongestion in  your body so that you are ready to put on your sneakers to go for a walk, exercise or take part in the sports activity that you were planning.

When is the best time for outdoor exercise for allergy sufferers?

If you are a regular sufferer of allergies, I would recommend planning and doing your exercises in the morning.  We buildup mucus overnight when we are laying flat and horizontal.  Gravity is not our friend and it pushes mucus further into our system.  Ideally, when you wake up, the earlier that you can get that mucus broken down and removed, the better it will be and the more enjoyable the day will be for you.  If you wake up feeling congested, take something right away to help.  I like Reactine Rapid Dissolve as it helps alleviate symptoms from both indoor and outdoor allergies.  Then, take your shower and get ready to get that morning workout in.

With physical distancing, and more time being spent at home eating comfort food, some men have put on a little extra weight.  What are your tips to being summer ready?

Tip number one – don’t buy those snacks at the grocery store – don’t let them into your house.  Avoidance is key.  Tip number two – just get moving.  Obviously when you haven’t been moving for so long, any step forward is a step forward, big or small.  If you are feeling too lazy to get to the gym for a full workout, start by just getting up and moving around, whether that’s indoors or outdoors.  You can start with something very light. It can be as simple as jumping jacks or a hike if you can get outside.  You can build up to full workouts and it doesn’t have to start with six days a week.  You can start with two days a week, then comfortably build up to three and four.  Be easy on yourself – don’t take on too much too soon.  We are in a very weird period of time.  Take care of yourself.

An easy formula is that three days a week is a good benchmark.  That is less than half of your week.  It allows your body plenty of time to recover in between.  From a movement standpoint, it is easy to program a pushing day, a pulling day and a lower body day.  That is what I recommend and it is based off of very functional movements.  Here are examples of each type of movement:

  • Pushing movement: A push up is one example. You can also do a fighter jet push up where your hips are high up in the air and your head goes down directly towards the floor and then back up. That movement is more for your shoulders.  A dip where your hands are on the couch or a bench, your chest is upright and you drop your hips towards the ground works your triceps. You have three different pushing movements working three dominant muscle groups.
  • Pulling Movements: Pulling is generally a little bit tougher because people often don’t have the upper body strength to do a pullup right away. What you can work your way up to right away is a body row.  A body row uses some sort of handle while you lean back slightly.  That slight lean back doesn’t have to be parallel to the ground, it can be just a 15% decline so that you are fighting gravity less.  You are pulling your elbows and shoulders back and squeezing your shoulder blades together.  That’s the pulling motion that you want to create.  It will train your back muscles and rehabilitate muscles associated with good posture.  A bicep curl is another basic pulling movement.  Another movement that will work your rear deltoids (the back of your shoulders) is a reverse slide.  You can do these with resistance bands or dumb bells.  You are almost parallel to the ground slowly guiding your elbows backwards at shoulder height.
  • Lower Body: This is the longest of the three days because there are more muscles associated. You have hip thrusts from the ground.  Next, you have squats.  My personal favourite is the walking lunge, it’s a great, dynamic, functional movement that trains your knees to stay in line.  They train your quads and glutes to activate at a certain point and train your upper body to stay upright as you are completing the motion.  The nice thing about the movements is that they are all scalable so that you can go from beginner to advanced.

More and more people are benefiting from at-home work outs, especially when it’s extremely hot outside.  How can you still have an impactful workout at home?

The key to having impactful workouts at home is to start getting creative with the things that you have in your environment.  One of the things that I did during lockdown was use a gym bag that I had no use for anymore.  I stuffed it with a bunch of water bottles.  Water makes a fantastic weight.  I think I packed 45 pounds in there which is a decent amount of weight to work with.  The various handles of the bag allowed me to do different types of presses and swinging movements.  Simply using a bag and water bottles created a universal piece of equipment that was easy to use.  I think almost everyone has access to those two things.  If you aren’t willing to sacrifice a bag, there are always chairs and couches.  There are tons of online resources for different exercises and workouts that you can do.

What workout equipment should we have for at home exercise in a perfect world?  What about for men that are more budget conscious or who have small spaces?

Aside from using what you already have on hand, longer looped resistance bands are a great investment.  They are sturdy, used in most gyms, are versatile, extremely durable and they don’t cost a fortune.  If you have more of a budget, there are adjustable dumbbells that I love.  They range from five pounds to sixty pounds.  They only take the space of one set of dumbbells so it’s a great piece of equipment.  If you have a compact bench that is ideal.  It opens you up to being able to do all of the basic exercises that you can do at the gym.

Finally, how did you stay motivated and manage your fitness goals when some of the workouts that you excel at, like Muay Thai, weren’t possible?

The biggest part of keeping yourself motivated is keeping an eye on your goal and staying focused on whatever that goal is.  For me, my goal is to create, uphold and try to evolve a body that is the perfect hybrid for strength, endurance and movement.  That’s been my goal for a few years now.

When the lockdown happened, I approached that same goal from a different perspective.  Instead of going to the gym, I started experimenting with what I can do with my own body and tried different things.  For example, I never used to do Pilates and I started doing Pilates’ movement.  I started experimenting with a little bit of yoga and then mixing that into other movements that I knew.  Sometimes it comes down to keeping it fresh for yourself by staying focused and finding things that interest you and continuing to explore and be playful with your workouts.

Here are some more ideas to get you started:

Outdoor/ Indoor – No Weight

Equipment needed: park bench or high curb, rail (depending on weather around the timing of the segment, can be adjusted for indoor or outdoor)

Intervals: You’re going to do each of the below exercises for 30 seconds with no rest in between. You will go through the circuit twice, rest for 1 minute and repeat 4 times. This will take you 25 minutes. If you want more of a challenge, switch intervals to 45 seconds to extend your workout to 40 mins.

Boxer Jacks

Location: Rumble Boxing, Vancouver @rumbleboxing
Photographer: @viranlly
Location: Rumble Boxing, Vancouver @rumbleboxing Photographer: @viranlly

Your feet move like a regular jumping jack. Your arms take turns moving to your sides; like a regular jack, and moving directly forward.

Assisted Pushup on Park Bench or Curb

Allergies: Nik Vasilyev Assisted Pushup
Location: Rumble Boxing, Vancouver @rumbleboxing Photographer: @viranlly
Location: Rumble Boxing, Vancouver @rumbleboxing Photographer: @viranlly

Feet on the lower platform, hands on the higher. This puts your body in an incline, making your body weight resistance lighter.

High Knees, Toe Touches

Allergies: High Knees Toe Touches
Location: Rumble Boxing, Vancouver @rumbleboxing Photographer: @viranlly

Toes touching the seat of the park bench or the curb every time AS FAST AS YOU CAN.

Jump Switch Lunges Right Away

Allergies: Nik Vasilyev Jump Switch Lunges
Location: Rumble Boxing, Vancouver @rumbleboxing Photographer: @viranlly
Location: Rumble Boxing, Vancouver @rumbleboxing Photographer: @viranlly
Location: Rumble Boxing, Vancouver @rumbleboxing Photographer: @viranlly

Grab the back of the bench for assistance. Drop your rear knee nice and low every time. If jumping is too intense, switch to reverse lunges without the jump.

Body Rows

Allergies: Nik Vasilyev Body Row
Location: Rumble Boxing, Vancouver @rumbleboxing
Photographer: @viranlly
Allergies: Nik Vasilyev
Location: Rumble Boxing, Vancouver @rumbleboxing
Photographer: @viranlly

Make sure the park bench is secured to the concrete. Feet together, tuck them in below the seat of the bench or rail. Grip the horizontal bar of the rail or the bench. Extend your arms; your body should now be on an incline backwards. Pull your shoulders back as you bend your arms and squeeze your shoulder blades together, extend your arms and repeat.

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